A RENOWNED conductor from Dorchester has been arrested in the US over a £58,000 child support bill.

Paul Hillier, 61, was detained by Department of Homeland Security officials at Newark Airport while on his way to perform at a Mozart concert at the Lincoln Centre in New York.

He was held on an outstanding warrant for failing to pay child support for his two daughters, who live in the US with his first wife, and was taken to Essex County Jail in New Jersey.

Mr Hillier, who was awarded an OBE in 2006 and now lives in Denmark with his second wife, Else Torp, had to pay £58,000 before he was released.

Prosecutors claim he had failed to make payments for four years.

In a statement, Mr Hillier said that as part of his divorce from first wife Lena-Liis Kiesel he had agreed to pay child support for ‘very specific visitation rights’, which he claimed were never fulfilled.

He added: “During the past year I had been trying various ways to settle the matter amicably between us, but without success.”

Mr Hillier, who described his arrest ‘as a very brief affair’, added: “Of course, there is no way now in which the lost years with my children can be restored.

“I feel this loss very deeply and I feel that my rights as a father have been comprehensively trampled into the ground.

“Despite all this, but now with even less grounds for optimism than ever before, my heart will remain open to my children, who are now young adults, in the hope that one day they will begin to understand fully.”

The double Grammy winner went to the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester and sang in the West Walks singers before it became Dorchester Choral Society.

Former Hardyean David Aird, who left the school in 1966, said: “I remember him from school.

“I think he may have stayed at the boarding house.”

Local pianist and conductor Peter Oakes said: “Paul Hillier is a very significant name in the classical music world. I didn’t know he was from Dorchester until I read an interview in The BBC Music Magazine last year and he briefly mentioned it.”

Mr Hillier, who has won worldwide acclaim for his choral work, was also a part of a folksong trio who included the Beach Boys in their repertoire, but switched his main interest to classical music.

He studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and taught in California before re-locating to the States in 1990 to teach music. In 2008 he won a Grammy for Best Choral Recording and he won a second Grammy this year in the small ensemble category.

In 2000, he returned to Europe to work as a conductor and was principal conductor with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir between 2001 and 2007.